The Great Rivalry of Boston 2010: The Kenyans v. REM Runner

Like all great rivalries, this one goes way back. I don’t remember why or when it started. Oh wait, yes I do. It began exactly two weeks day ago, on the day I ran 15 miles.

When I left for my run that day, I removed my apartment keys from my keychain and tied them into my shoelaces (so I wouldn’t have to carry the bulk of my keychain). Of course, when I returned from my run, I forgot to re-hook them into my keychain and later locked myself out of my apartment.

Luckily, my doorman, Freddy, is perhaps the most happy-go-lucky person I’ve ever met. IF I ever told him I’d burnt down the building, he’d probably laugh and say, “Uh oh, now what are we going to do about that?”

Freddy couldn’t have been any nicer about my key situation and graciously accompanied me back upstairs with the master-key. However, I felt the need to explain myself to him, hoping to set myself apart from the numb-chucks that lock themselves out for… well, for not-so-good reasons.

“I went for a run and ….” I kept talking to fill the elevator-air but sensed that Freddy wasn’t listening. I realized – he probably gets this a lot.  I blabbered on as we walked the long hallway towards my apartment, telling him that I was training to run my first marathon in April in Boston.

Freddy lit up, “Oh, The Boston Marathon!”

“Yes, well, I’m from Boston so that’s why I’m running that one,” I explained.

“Well, I’m from Kenya, and we usually win your marathon.”

And that’s when the smack-talker in me came out: “Oh yeah? Well not this year… Not with me in the race!”

Unlocking my door, Freddy began laughing deeply from his belly and said, “We’ll see about that.”

“Yes, we’ll see.” Agreeing to disagree, I thanked Freddy and snuck back into my apartment. Closing the door behind me, I could hear him still chuckling down the hall.

For better or worse, I have this overly-confident alter-ego that usually only rears its ugly head during conversations about tennis, squash, and ping-pong. I’m a much more humble runner, as I said in a prior post – I see myself as an average runner (not the gazelle-type). But for some reason, things got out of hand between Freddy and I – words were spoken, and there was no going back now. And just like that, the great rivalry of Boston 2010 was born: the Kenyans versus the REM Runner.
In the last two weeks, the rivalry has been heating up considerably. It’s abundantly clear now that Freddy is working undercover as a spy for my Kenyan rivals, reporting on my training so that they keep up with me – distance and pace.
Last week, I waltzed through the lobby carrying a big box under my arms – a much-needed new pair of running sneaks. Freddy laughed and shook his head when I explained that these were “new shoes to keep up with the Kenyans!” But most likely he was secretly taking note of the brand and model… I wouldn’t be surprised to find all the Kenyans wearing my same baby-blue Asics gels on race day.

However, just yesterday, things began looking good for me. As I left for my 16 mile run, I dropped off a water-bottle and a packet of energy sports beans with Freddy at the front desk. He laughed at me and said, “No chance…No chance.” To be expected. I laughed too.

I ran the hills of Adams Morgan, Cleveland Circle and UDC area. The roads were sloppy – slush and snow leftover from last weekend’s storm. As planned, I ended my first 7 mile loop back at my building, to hydrate and energize mid-run. Entering my building, I was sweaty and sniffley, with flushed rosey cheeks. Freddy handed over my water and jelly beans and much to my surprise, he said, “Now, you look like a runner. Maybe you will run with the Kenyans.”

It was the enemy speaking the unspeakable. Rehydrated and inspired, I set out for the second portion of my run, a 9 mile whirlwind tour around the national mall area. I was anxious to complete this run, for many obvious reasons, including Freddy’s reaction. I wondered what he’d say, seeing how much longer I’d been out running now! Perhaps he’d get all serious and concede the whole race to me, saying something like, “You’re going to beat the Kenyans, aren’t you?” And then we’d break into a thunderous laughter together.

However, by the time I reached home, ragged from my 16 miles, Freddy’s shift was over. The mild-mannered evening doorman, Andrew, returned my water-bottle to me from behind the front desk. We exchange half-hearted smiles; I thanked him and went on my way – hobbling to the elevator.

To Andrew, and to most of the world, I’m just another anonymous runner. No one needs to know how far I’ve run or what I’m running for. Yet, alone in the elevator – I couldn’t help but beam with pride – I just ran 16 miles! Not even Freddy, my greatest marathon “frienemy,” knows the circumstances under which I train as a person with narcolepsy. And it hardly matters what others think at this point.

Two years ago, or even one year ago, if you told me that I’d be on track to running a marathon this spring, I would have laughed and told you you were crazy. Adjusting to life with narcolepsy has been a complicated experience and I must admit, there have been times that I’ve lost sight of myself. Moments when my will-power and self-confidence waivered. During these times, the prospect of running a marathon felt about as likely as the prospect of beating the Kenyans.

Of course, I probably won’t finish within hours of any Kenyans in Boston. But never say never – you may just wake up one day and realize that you’re doing something that you once thought was impossible.


  1. Anonymous on February 4, 2010 at 8:45 am

    Julie, you are an inspiration…keep running! I am routing for you over all the Kenyans. Monica

  2. Anonymous on February 4, 2010 at 9:38 am

    Wow – truly inspiring! Best wishes on your training and for the race. Think I'll go for a run….I have NO excuses

  3. Anonymous on February 4, 2010 at 9:38 am

    Julie,you are the greatest,thanks for taking the challenge,keep us up to date on Freddy,enjoyed the blog.
    Gordon Gow (Thomas's Poppa in Canada)

  4. A Knitter with Narcolepsy on February 5, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    Great post Julie – Thank you so much for everything that you are doing for everyone affected by Narcolepsy. I have said to myself more than once, since finding your blog, "If Julie can run a marathon I can …"
    It may sound like a little thing, but my new "motto" helped me get the laundry done last night!
    Thank You

  5. As fast as a Kenyan… on April 30, 2012 at 2:48 am

    […] you might remember my “rivalry” with the Kenyans for Boston 2010 (I wrote about the rivalry here). Thank you to those that believed in me and said you’d be cheering for me over the Kenyans. […]

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